Becoming an airline pilot takes a lot of time, effort, and money. So, if you one day dream of flying for a major airline, it’s best to know just what exactly it is that you’re getting yourself into.
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Pros of Becoming an Airline Pilot
Pilots can be financially compensated very well. First officers may earn under $100k as they begin their career, but after 6 years they can earn $150k plus. Captains can earn over $200k in their first year but this can progress to over $300k.
Pilots also enjoy health, life, vision, and dental insurance benefits, as well as a generous retirement plan.
Pilots have the opportunity to travel the world and get paid for the privilege. Of course, this isn’t possible every flight, but there are still plenty of occasions where they can spend some time in a new country and get to enjoy soaking up the culture.
Outside of flying for their job, pilots can enjoy discounted or free travel with their family, even after retirement.
Most people have a very rigid, mundane schedule of getting into work at 9 am and clocking out at 5 pm…every single day of their lives. Not to mention having to sit in the same corner office and driving the same busy traffic route.
Pilots, on the other hand, have flexible schedules with changing flight routes and working hours. Even junior pilots can enjoy a minimum of 12 days off each month. Try and find another job that lets you do that.
Perks & Allowances
As far as perks go, pilots have it pretty good. Pilots get to enjoy free or discounted accommodation, travel, food, and other allowances, depending on whether they’re currently working or taking time off.
Work Stays At Work
It’s an unwritten rule many people who work 9-5 jobs are expected to take their work home with them.
When a pilot’s work is done for the day, though, they are free to enjoy all the time they have until their next flight.
Being a pilot might not carry quite the same reputation and respect as it once did decades ago. But pilots still enjoy a very good reputation and experience plenty of respect in society, from both men and women, and the young and the old.
While there’s no doubt that the pay can be very good, the number one reason why most pilots get into the industry is because they love flying and all things aviation.
The opportunity to get paid to do what you love is rare, but pilots are the lucky ones who get to do just that.
Cons of Becoming an Airline Pilot
The initial investment to become an airline pilot is by no means cheap. It can cost upwards of $80,000. Even with tuition reimbursement schemes and flight school loans available, becoming a pilot isn’t necessarily a viable option for anyone who wants to do so.
Seniority is everything as an airline pilot.
Want to fly a particular route. Well, how senior are you? Want to choose your days off and vacation time? We hope you have been working for the airline for years. How about your earning potential? You guessed it – it’s based on your seniority.
A pilot’s seniority starts the day they work for the airline and cannot be transferred either. So, regardless of experience, a 25-year veteran pilot is treated the same as a junior pilot if they switch airlines for whatever reason.
The freedom of being an airline pilot can be great but schedules can be very irregular, especially if a pilot is just starting out and therefore doen’t get to choose their schedule. This can make it harder to form relationships, as well as put a strain on them.
It gets better as a pilot gains seniority, but forming relationships and always being there for family occasions can be challenging early on in a pilot’s career.
Every time a pilot steps into the cockpit they know that they are responsible for the lives of hundreds of people. While accidents are thankfully rare, the level of responsibility a pilot has is unmatched compared to other industries.
Pilots can have the chance of spending at least a bit of time in a new country or location, but often layovers can be short. There’s just enough time to check into the hotel and sleep before they have to fly again.
Pilot fatigue is a very real issue, which is why regulations such as flight time limits and minimum rest periods must be followed.
Still, the constant traveling and irregular patterns can take a toll on a pilot’s physical and mental health.
For pilots, it can be a hard pill to swallow knowing that failing a medical exam can end their career.
To be issued with a first-class medical certificate that is required for an airline transport pilot license, certain requirements need to be met, including vision, hearing, ENT, and ECG requirements. Developing a condition that can end a pilot’s career is often out of their hands, which can make it all the harder.
Airline pilots are also required to retire at 65 years old, even if they are in perfect health.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.